Mosque architecture has been really evolving as of late. I most recently saw this example from Emre Arolat Architects, which does not at all resemble the mosques I’m familiar with which look more like this. Unlike Christian cathedrals and churches, mosques do not depict holy personages. In fact, they do not depict the human form at all as the second commandment expressly forbids the making of “graven images.” The idea is that God is unseen and therefore we have no conception of what form God takes. The depiction of a stand-in or intermediary representing God would be considered akin to creating a false idol. This is sometimes taken further by not depicting any creatures considered to have a soul.
You would think that this leaves little to work with. However, mosque interiors often use vegetal motifs which repeat and wind sinuously around themselves to create incredibly intricate patterns. There is also artistry in the Qu’ranic arabic script which is highly stylized to create patterns that interplay with the geometric or vegetal motifs. From this point, we see an evolution of the mosque archetype into various architectural styles. One example is The Islamic Cultural Center completed in 1991 and located on New York City’s Upper East Side. Designed by architectural juggernauts Skidmore, Owings, and Merill, it takes its cues from Brutalist architecture of the 1970s, employing steel and concrete to produce a facade reminiscent of an office tower. Another example is the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan designed by Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay. This mosque’s unique form is inspired by the vernacular structure of a Bedouin tent, although it still retains the traditional minarets associated with older mosque building typologies.
Mosque-itecture has evolved with the architectural styles of the day. It is refreshing to see the amount of creativity employed in taking the traditional archetype and extending, developing, and questioning it. In a world where everyone’s eyes and minds seem to be trained on the unrest in the historically Islamic Middle East, it is refreshing to see architects working with this religious building type and showing that Islamic architecture, like Islam, can be diverse, dynamic, and contemporary.